I’m Not Gonna Grow Old
Swedish masters offer up a slice of discofied sunshine: something no one can argue against.
I’m Not Gonna Grow Old is available via:
The album Above the City is available via:
GAMBLING is legal in international waters…
where musicians are keen to roll the dice, and go all in, no matter what the outcome. I am not sure as to why there is less reluctance to be cautious or penned in overseas; or why there are fewer mundane or predictable acts. Obviously it is hard to say what the music scene is like through Europe and North America: what happens day to day, that means acts are more ambitious and varied. I suppose that one hears less about foreign music, simply because we do not reside there. For all I know there could be waves and scores of bland bands, generic solo artists, and a lot of white noise. It is when you do hear of great bands from overseas: whether they are from the U.S., Canada, Norway, Australia etc., that chords are struck; and struck hard. I have reviewed a great deal of acts within the U.K., and have seldom been disappointed. All the songs, sounds and E.P.s have been different (to one another), well produced and have displayed the talents of the associative artists very well. As impassioned as I have become of a lot of the artists, there is seldom variation on a theme. Genres are explored and tempted, but there is a great deal of two types of music: Indie/Rock, talking of street life, and broken love; or else acoustic/solo offerings that deal primarily with doubt, self-recrimination and the pitfalls of romance. It is when artists have broken away from the tired and well-worn moulds, that results occur, and fascination is implanted in the mind. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, there is not a great deal of mobility or diversification. I suppose the current music scene is to blame. New artists will- in the initial stages- parody or emulate an existent act, to some extent: in order to gain some sort of residual credibility. The issues are twofold. Firstly, too many acts stick too closely to a existent act, and come off sounding like a poor man’s approximation. Secondly, there is not enough risk-taking or experimentation. In the U.K.- and to an extent, the rest of the world- commercial and media expectation controls the mandate and output of new music. Few young artist are aware of great bands of the past; nary aware of what is possible, and what they are missing out on. At best it is absent-mindedness; at its worst- and most accurate- it is blinding stupidity. For all the exceptional music out there: acts whom are willing to be bold, or have an original and solid sound that cannot be slated; there are legions of new music that suffer from the same maladies. Few are willing to hunt through the great acts of the ’60s, ’70s, and even ’90s, looking for fresh innovation. Too few too, are prepared to mix and investigate genres like swing, jazz, funk, grunge, stoner rock, psychedelia, etc. There are precious few great or hugely impressive voice; not enough spectacular lyricists, and barely an act out there whom push the envelope and dissect expectation. In Europe, and the U.S., especially, there is much more to be impressed by.
I have been amazed by acts such as Highfields, as well as Anna von Hausswolff: imbued with European components and genes, that translate to stunningly daring and strange sounds. It seems, as a general rule of thumb, that the further north or north-east you go (from London), the greater the (exponential) quality of music. I am not a skeptic or cynic of London, or its potential; the fact is that the capital yields too few great acts and artists. In northern Europe, there seems to be a bit more of what is needed. Club 8 have been in existence since 1995: a year that was rife with Britpop fascination and some rather brilliant music. They have been regarded with critical acclaim, due to their mixture of dreamy pop, and experimentation spirit. The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming, released in 2007, was the first of their albums to receive a lot of positive feedback and attention. 2010’s The People’s Record was another big success, which saw them come into the sights of a lot of reviewers and media outlets in the U.K. The band consist Johan Angergard, and Karolina Komstedt- possibly one of the most alluring beautiful women in music. The band’s influences extend from The Smiths, to Mazzy Star, through to Leonard Cohen. There is a lot of introversion and introspection between those artists, and it is a facet that has been used- in small shots- by the band. Above all of that, there is an inescapable sense of fun and passion. There are few tales of depression, anxiety, woe-is-me histrionics, and self-flagellation- oh no, far from it. Looking at the track-listing, song titles such as Kill Kill Kill, Stop Taking My Time and Less Than Love, may hint at savage parables, glorious kiss-offs and sorrowful recollections, the themes and contents are less Leonard Cohen, and more… well, something far more optimistic. The duo are tight and focused, and convey a wealth of evocation and promise from just two members. There are no wasted bodies or movements; Karolina is up front and the teasing Siren; Johan has string duties. Their sonic outpourings and myriad shades and avenues points towards a band, whom want to be adored and regarded fervently outside of their native Sweden. It has taken a long while for us here, as well as a lot of the world, to be attuned to the wonders of the band. U.S. media and publications have known of Club 8 for years now, but I stumbled upon their sounds via The Girls Are: a constant source of contacts for me. Above The City is out this week, and ahead of its release, I settled down and in, to listen to the 8th track, from the forthcoming album.
Fun is a word that cannot be applied too confidently to much music at the present time. There has always been, and is certainly now, a heavy emphasis or personalisation and biography: most of the time this consists of navel gazing or maudlin displays of guilt and self-assessment. It is clear from the first second, that energy and punch rule the song. With electronic, disco infusion and invigoration straight from the off, there is no time to ponder or choose an appropriate response. Behind the clash and dance of the foreground, are wordless choursings and stutters: each of which punctuates the stability of the composition perfectly. There is an effervescence, bubbly youthfulness and child-like joie de vivre in Karolina’s vocals. The album has received words of comparison to Madonna and Florence and the Machine. There is evidence to be found, with regards to the former’s Like A Virgin (album)-era credibility and sound. Spirit and smoke of dance and club music can be heard loud and clear. Recollections of the likes of Groovejet are also present, but when word such as “I’m the loser/Love abuser”is sung, there are hints of Nina Persson and Kylie Minogue. There is that same dreaminess and sex appeal; a comparable firepower and fertility. I was struck by the structure of the track. Starting with the disco and pop composition and wordless vocals, between the verses this is employed again, adding potency and fascination. Whereas other bands and acts may plump towards verse-chorus-verse struck, with little deviation, Club 8 know how to build the mood and hold interest: there is a consistent energy and smile. Tales of silence and violence are heralded; backed by what sounds like a glass xylophone being played; a electronic percussion thuds, and the sound of rampant strings build, before the chorus is unleashed. When “Don’t want to be someone like you” is delivered, audio ecstasy is present; words are elongated, softly delivered and seduced: backed with vocal interjections, the effect is one of exhilaration. Subjects of the future and reminders that “I’ve been passing all these years” are introduced; our heroine showing no signs of anxiety or foreboding: everything is delivered with great expression and thorough regard for clarity and emotional effect. Combining Johan’s deft and impressive songwriting and ear for hooks, and marrying that to the vocal purity of Karolina yields brilliant results. It is true that there are a lot of modern touches: the production is current and the band are very much in the moment; but the quality and influence hint at the ’80s and early ’90s. Reminders of Madonna, and flavours of The Cardigans mingle seamlessly, with no sense of intrusion: there are hints of those artists but the abiding sense is originality and freshness. Sound and atmosphere are unquenchable, as there is a consistent movement and energisation: barely are there are pauses, gaps or silences. It has a model that is fit for Summer, the clubs, dance circuits, discos, or wherever the hell it wants to go. The breeziness and utilitarianism of the song means that it is difficult to fault anything about it; it wants to win you over, and will do so with some aplomb.
Allmusic have already given the album- Above the City- a glowing and detailed review. They mentioned the “super-discofied” majesty of I’m Not Gonna Grow Old, but went on to highlight that the band mix still and haunting tracks, with high-energy smashers, too. There is clearly a great range and ambition to be heard in the record, and the two key components: stunning and adaptive musical landscapes and melodies, and dreamy and beautiful vocals, stamp each track with authoritative and conviction. In the past, African sounds have featured in the pages of Club 8, as well as all sorts of different music and notes. Here is a group that love to innovate and keep moving: there is never any danger of being bored or let down. On the current album, there are icy ballads, heavy metal guitars as well as sunny pop, disco moves and Robyn-esque club gems. Samples and odd sounds are thrown into the mix, to add weight, cadence and majesty to the album. On the basis of I’m Not Gonna Grow Old, alone, it is is clear that 2013 is going to be another successful year for the group, whom show no signs of slowing or degradation. Due to their ideologies: keep things varied and fascinating; explore different genres and styles; never lose focus, the album is a triumph, and they are an inspiration to any new or future acts. I have long been banging-on about how narrow the focus is amongst new U.K. acts, but I suspect that the issue is present farther afield. In the same way that the likes of Damon Albarn travelled the globe and drew in sounds of the countries he visited into Blur and Gorrilaz records; Club 8 have picked up souvenirs from foreign climbs and integrated them into their compositions. I have long said that you need to do more than stick with one particular sound: having an ‘identity’ apparently means a homogeneous and unevolving constant. Club 8 keep their personality, but have created it by being adventurous, pioneering and wide-ranging. Different samples, instruments, styles and spectrums are experimented with and adored; the result of which, is a multi-genre golden nugget. If you want to be striking and memorable, then this is what you need to do. Without compromising integrity, focus or individuality, it is possible to gain the same sort of credibility and ardour, by not being honed in and stuck in a rut. As I said before, there have been decades of wonderful music, all sorts of incredible songs and albums, and a spectacular banquet of tastes and sensations. You do not need to rip anyone off, ape a band or be a cover band to elicit a visceral and impassioned response. Simply travel the world, listen to bands and albums you haven’t before, and get writing. When you separate yourself away from current bands and obvious ‘influences’ and ‘modern idols’ and actually open your mind and aspirations up, then that is when something special occurs. The greatest albums and songs resulted from this same process. Not a single one of the greatest songs, singers, bands or albums, contained, proffered or professed anything equivocal to what consists of about 90% of modem music. I long for the day when there will be contenders for the crown of the all-time best bands, acts, songs and albums: it seems less likely with every passing week. Band such as Club 8 need to be brought more into international focus, as they are capable of inspiring new moves and thoughts. Hunt down the album (and previous offerings), and listen to their music…
AND then everything will become apparent…